On the news last night I saw a group of anti-quarantine protesters carrying signs, and one of the signs said “I want a haircut!” I realized then that the coronavirus has something important to teach us.
Later that night, Stephen Colbert joked about that same sign:
Many of the protesters lamented the loss of their everyday activities, like this woman in Wisconsin with the sign, ‘I want a haircut.’ Uh, looks like your sign has a typo. We fixed it for you. It should read, ‘I want to endanger the lives of your grandparents in exchange for frosted tips.’
Funny, but in a really dismal way, right?
If we look deep inside that dark humor, and even inside the coronavirus pandemic itself, we can discover a profound truth – one the Baha’i teachings want us to contemplate and fully understand:
It is obvious that all created things are connected one to another by a linkage complete and perfect, even, for example, as are the members of the human body. Note how all the members and component parts of the human body are connected one to another. In the same way, all the members of this endless universe are linked one to another. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha
We are one, the Baha’i teachings have told us since the mid-1800s. Now, the virus quietly tries to tell us, too. We’re all human beings, in this together. We each have linkages – genetic, material and spiritual – to everyone else on Earth. We each breathe the same air and drink the same water. No matter where we live on this planet, we’re related to all other human beings. We each initially have the exact same level of immunity to this novel coronavirus as every other person – absolutely none. We each fight the same internal spiritual battle between selfishness and selflessness. We each have the exact same level of susceptibility to the virus. We each can infect one another, knowingly or not.
Yes, some may have no discernable symptoms while others may die from the effects of the virus – but because of our human oneness, we each have a responsibility to one another to respect and honor the lives of every other member of the human family. We can best accomplish that goal now, the scientific community has repeatedly informed us, by keeping our distance from each other physically. Strangely, to be united, we have to stay separated – at least for a while.
Of course, distancing ourselves physically doesn’t mean we’re spiritually separate – in fact, the opposite is true. The pandemic has clearly pointed out human unity and interdependence as a positive reality, as the best way to deal with a common enemy. We are, as the Baha’i teachings say, “connected one to another by a linkage complete and perfect”.
The governments of the world have all implemented some form of lock-down, social distancing or stay-at-home order, and the message that near-universal response sends should come across loud and clear: we consent to suffer the negative effects of joblessness and isolation from one another precisely because we love humanity. No animal population has the ability or the consciousness to self-quarantine, after all. When one of the members of a herd of antelope or a band of primates contracts a potentially fatal disease, they not only can’t comprehend its cause, but can’t consciously separate themselves from one another to minimize its impact. Only human beings have the ability to do that. Our human tribe has the great blessing of being able to intellectually and scientifically understand the cause of a pandemic; to make enlightened policy based on that science; and then to carry it out, as most of the world has now done.
Sure, some people dislike the effects of a global quarantine. It’s difficult, impractical, inconvenient, and even impossible for lots of us. Some can’t survive if they don’t work. Some must work to supply food; some take care of the sick; some keep the peace. But for the most part, and for most people, our public health experts, our scientists and our governments have asked us to stay home and stay away from one another for our own protection – and for the protection of society as a whole. When we do that, we’re defending ourselves and our families, as well as the people we don’t know whose lives we could directly endanger otherwise. Ultimately, by guarding and protecting others, we’re expressing our love for humanity:
… we must strive with all our heart and soul that this love may take possession of us so that all humanity – whether it be in the East or in the West – may be connected through the bond of this divine affection; for we are all the waves of one sea; we have come into being through the same bestowal and are recipients from the same center. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace
Haste thou to life before death cometh; haste thou to the spring season before autumn draweth in; and before illness striketh, haste thou to healing – that thou mayest become a physician of the spirit who, with the breaths of the Holy Spirit, healeth all manner of sickness in this famed and glorious age. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha
All of this really does come down to love. If you love others, as every religion asks us to, then you’ll want to do your utmost to protect them from suffering and death, regardless of whether you know them or not.
For example, you probably don’t know my aunt Midge who lives in St. Louis, but her life is now in your hands – literally. If you go out and socialize, if you break the chain of love and caring that the quarantine represents, if you become an unwitting, asymptomatic link in the exponential chain of transmission this disease is now busy constructing, the virus could find its way to her. She’s a kind, wonderful person, with children and grandchildren who love her dearly. Their lives would suffer tremendously if she died from a preventable cause like coronavirus.
So yes, folks, I know your hair doesn’t look its best at the moment – mine doesn’t either – but if you can, please stay home and follow the guidelines, despite their difficult negative impacts. Make a selfless decision to protect others. If you do, you’ll be taking part in the ongoing process the Baha’i teachings call “the spirit of the age” – the unification of the entire human race, which comes from love and the deep spiritual recognition of our organic oneness.